Carrie Hassler

The Distance

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Hassler has been an award-winning and chart-topping bluegrass performer since 2006, but on The Distance she makes a side trip into traditional country music with the help of a studio band of Nashville pros. The result is stunning and shows Hassler to be a performer comfortable in any kind of setting. She opens with a smoking bluegrass take on "Luxury Liner," a Gram Parsons tune long associated with Emmylou Harris. Hassler makes it her own with her commanding delivery and impressive vocals. "Eugene & Diane" is a country weeper, a story song of lovers who never quite connect. It almost sinks under the weight of its lyrical clich├ęs, but Hassler and duet partner and producer Steve Gulley sing it with so much emotion it'll break even the hardest heart. The gospel-flavored "Give My Love" deals with dying parents and mortality; Hassler's almost whispered vocal here is even more powerful because of its restraint. It's another raw, emotional performance. Four low-key love songs are at the album's core and Hassler's understated vocals make them all stunners. Ron Stewart's emotional fiddling and the Dobro fills supplied by Justin Moses contribute to the subtle, uplifting message of "All I Have to Do Is Breathe," a song of hard times that urges you to calm down and keep on. "Catch My Breath" is a new song with an old-time vibe, complemented by Terry Crisp's cascading steel guitar. Hassler digs deep for a vocal full of sensual restraint. "Keep Your Memory Warm" is a bluegrass love song, balanced between hope and yearning, while "The Distance" is pure heartache, full of grief and resignation. The Distance may be the best album Hassler's made yet, with her emotional singing displaying a concentrated dose of country-soul.

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